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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III: The Sleeping City (1950) - Blu-ray Review

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Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume III: The Sleeping City=

The drugs! The coppers!  The crimes! And the Femme Fatales!  It's all here in The Sleeping City!

Sometimes, as is the case with 1950’s The Sleeping City, Film Noir offerings are notable for one thing entirely: their use of their location.  Okay, okay, so The Sleeping City - which has a disclaimer inserted into the very beginning thanks to the insistence of William O'Dwyer, the Mayor of New York at the time of the movie’s release - who did not want people thinking that New York's Bellevue Hospital was a dangerous or unsafe place - is not a bad film, but its’ semi-documentary feel leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to stylish thrillers involving undercover detective work and drug dealing.

"leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to stylish thrillers involving undercover detective work and drug dealing"

Far too much of The Sleeping City is a by-the-numbers procedural . . . without the needed mystery to keep audiences focused.  Tension?  Who needs it?  This movie, outside of William Miller’s cinematography, makes its cinéma vérité-style intentions sometimes trip over itself on its way to the closing credits.  The acting from the leads is quite good, though, and there are enough suicidal shocks to keep the pages turning.

The New York skyline is the real star here as director George Sherman, who did a number of low budget westerns for Republic and Columbia Pictures, directs Coleen Gray (Nightmare Alley, Red River, and The Killing), Richard Conte (I'll Cry Tomorrow, Ocean's 11, and The Godfather), and Alex Nicol (The Screaming Skull) in a tale concerning murder on the East River.  And, truly, that scene in which an intern is gunned down is pretty shocking.  

Set in and shot at New York's Bellevue Hospital, The Sleeping City kicks into motion when a detective (Conte) goes undercover as yet another intern in the hospital and tries to dig up the killer while making friends with roommate Steve Anderson (Nicol) - who later kills himself - and making eyes at the lovely nurse Ann Sebastian (Gray).  Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume III: The Sleeping City=

But the truth, involving dope smuggling, gambling debts, and a popular elevator operator, Pop Ware (Richard Taber) is not so hard to track down, resulting in a shootout on the roof of the hospital - which is as exciting as it sounds.  In fact, the movie ends on a high note, which it thankfully needed to as its constant reminiscing on night and hatred drags us all down into the depths of fatalism threatening to drown us all in its bleak outlook of dope dealing.   

People needed the darkness to be acknowledged and, from 1944 to 1955, it was cinema’s prime celebrity as highly cinematographic films - cheaply made - fell onto the rain-soaked streets of Home Town, USA.  The Sleeping City, now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III, is merely one offering from that defining era of filmmaking.

Thanks to the sparkling HD upgrade, The Sleeping City awakens once more!

3/5 beers

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume III: Adandoned


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- June 9, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; three-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Drug pushing and gambling set the stage for murder in The Sleeping City, a hardboiled film-noir thriller shot on the streets of New York. When a doctor is shot dead outside Bellevue Hospital, detective Fred Rowen (Richard Conte, Cry of the City, Thieves’ Highway) is assigned to find the killer. Posing as an intern, Rowen is befriended by the hospital’s elevator operator and a ward nurse (Coleen Gray, Kiss of Death, Nightmare Alley) he begins to date. As his investigation continues and potential witnesses wind up dead, Rowen finds himself next on the murderer’s list when he uncovers a narcotics ring. Suddenly, everyone is a suspect and he doesn’t know whom he can trust! Written by Jo Eisinger (Gilda, Night and the City) and directed by George Sherman (Larceny, Big Jake).


With a crisp black-and-white transfer, The Sleeping City  lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts of Kino Lorber.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it thanks to its 1080p handling and its black-and-white cinematography absolutely sizzles. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout


Bang! Bang! Bang!  Shots are fired on the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film noir flick.



  • There is a NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith .

Special Features:

Alas, there is but a theatrical trailer.

  • Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3/5 stars

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume II: Abandoned (1949)

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